It’s Tinnitus Awareness Week, February 5th through the 11th. Are you aware of your tinnitus this week? I am! Any time someone says the word “tinnitus”, or I read it, I become AWARE of all the noise in my head. I bet you do too.
Written by Chelle
How much it impacts us depends on where we are on the journey. It also depends on how quiet the room is and how stressed out we might be. Sometimes it’s the food we eat (caffeine, salt and – heavens forbid – chocolate), the meds we take or how tired we might be. For some people, loud noises create spike tinnitus. Tinnitus is as individual as audiograms. We are all a little bit different but we experience some sort of sound.
Sounds of Tinnitus
The sounds of tinnitus vary person to person. Mine started as a high pitched squeal in the mid 80’s. It was loud and invasive. As my hearing dropped, I gained cricket and cicada sounds. These days I have an incessant chirping bird whenever I am tired. Occasionally, a low tone comes for several seconds and then disappears. Other people describe their tinnitus sounds as static, jet engines, bongo drums, sirens and more.
What’s your tinnitus sounds? Have you shared the sound(s) of tinnitus with your family?
I have played the tinnitus sounds for my family and friends. The look on their face is priceless when they realize I live with that noise every day. When I taught tinnitus classes and gave presentations, I’d play the sounds. Most of the sounds I can’t hear so I’d have to ask hearing people if there was a noise. Maybe it’s because the sounds match what I hear in my head and I can’t distinguish the difference?
Here’s a WEBSITE that shares some of the more common sounds. Give it a try and share it with those close to you.
Learn to live with it?!
When the high pitched squeal invaded my life, I went to an ENT (Ear Nose Throat specialist) who told me there was no cure and this sound would be a part of my life from now on. At 18 years old, this is my life forever?!! Yes. It wouldn’t go away and I had to “learn to live with it”. (That’s a common response from professionals for tinnitus sufferers.) He didn’t tell me how I might learn to live with it so I drove home frustrated and crying. I felt like my life was over.
After several weeks of tinnitus, sleepless nights and zombie days, I decided this ‘sound’ would not ruin my life. There was plenty more in life to see and do so I would not give up. That night, I played music from my walkman with headphones so I wouldn’t disturb anyone else. I stayed on my back (not my normal sleeping position) so the headphones wouldn’t dig into my head and listened to music at a low level. Finally, I fell asleep. This was my nightly routine until I habituated my tinnitus.
People habituate to circumstances all the time. A lady I knew lived by a railroad track. A train thundered past her house several times a day. Her sister came to visit and asked her how she could possibly live next to all the noise. “I don’t even hear it anymore,” she said. She got used to it. That’s how it works most of the time with tinnitus too. At some point, we forget it’s there…until someone says the word ‘tinnitus’ or we have a spike in tinnitus.
Though I habituated my tinnitus, in my late teens, later I made friends with it. That’s crazy, huh? This was during a particularly rough spot in my life. My mind was cycling through my troubles, over and over again. (Coincidentally, that’s what makes tinnitus worse, the round and round thought cycles about tinnitus.) By that time, I had the cricket and cicada sounds on top of the squeal. When I found myself in that mad thinking cycle at night, I’d switch my attention to my personal crickets and cicadas which I couldn’t hear in real life anymore. It became comforting thinking about old summer nights with those sounds. My tinnitus didn’t get worse with the focus, it helped me go to sleep. What a reversal! Even my chirping bird became a friend of sorts. It warns me that I am overtired and need an early night.
With hearing loss, hearing aids help mask tinnitus during the day. There are tinnitus programs that can be loaded into hearing aids with a choice of sounds; ocean waves, a stream, white noise and more. (Ask your audiologist what’s available.) There are tinnitus apps to stream through hearing aids and sound generator devices if you don’t have hearing aids. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) has a help list of tools on their website.
Also, see our post on Hearing Aid & Cochlear Implant options HERE.
For Tinnitus Awareness Week, research and to educate yourself. Learn all you can. Go through the ATA website and learn more.
My tinnitus came pre-internet days, when there was precious little available on tinnitus. It’s so different now. Remember, there’s no cure for tinnitus, damn it. Some vitamins, supplements and devices may help alleviate symptoms but most of us are stuck with it. There are ways to manage it.
Another favorite website of mine for tinnitus comes through the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. They have a book, “How to Manage Your Tinnitus: A Step by Step Workbook” (WEBSITE). If you are a veteran, you get this workbook through the VA. If you aren’t, the workbook is available in a PDF format at the link above.
My friend Jodi Goodenough is knowledgeable about tinnitus, habituation, therapies and more. You can follow her Facebook page: Living with Hearing Loss & Tinnitus by clicking on this LINK.
If tinnitus is driving you crazy, find support. There are tinnitus specialists these days. You can find one near you with a quick internet search. Join any of the social media communities for tinnitus and hearing loss. Many of us have been on the journey for years and we willing share our knowledge and experiences.
Sometimes tinnitus is so invasive, we might have suicidal thought. Help is available via text. Visit the CRISIS TEXT LINE website to learn more.